Accept Jehovah’s Authority
“This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.”—1 JOHN 5:3.
“AUTHORITY” is not a popular word today. Many would consider distasteful the idea of submitting to the will of another person. “No one tells me what to do” expresses the attitude of those who claim to be nonconformists. Yet, are these people truly independent? Hardly! Most merely conform to the standards of countless others who are “fashioned after this system of things.” (Rom. 12:2) Far from being independent, they are “slaves of corruption,” to use the words of the Christian apostle Peter. (2 Pet. 2:19) They walk “according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air,” Satan the Devil.—Eph. 2:2.
2 One author boasted: “I do not endow my parents or a priest or a minister or a guru or the Bible with the power to decide what is true for me.” Granted, some may abuse their authority and may not merit our obedience. But is flatly denying any need for direction the answer? A brief glance at newspaper headlines provides a grim answer. It is tragic that at a time when humans so sorely need guidance, most are less inclined than ever to accept it.
Our View of Authority
3 As Christians, we take a position different from that of the world. It is not that we blindly do whatever we are told. On the contrary, at times we must refuse to submit to the will of others even if they have positions of authority. This was also true of first-century Christians. For instance, when the apostles were ordered to stop preaching, they did not cave in to the high priest and other authority figures who were part of the Sanhedrin. They did not abandon right conduct in order to conform to human authority.—Read Acts 5:27-29.
4 Numerous servants of God in the pre-Christian era acted with similar resolve. For example, Moses “refused to be called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh, choosing to be ill-treated with the people of God,” even though doing so incurred “the anger of the king.” (Heb. 11:24, 25, 27) Joseph resisted the advances of Potiphar’s wife, who had the power to retaliate and cause him harm. (Gen. 39:7-9) Daniel “determined in his heart that he would not pollute himself with the delicacies of the king,” though his position on the matter was not easy for the principal court official of Babylon to accept. (Dan. 1:8-14) Such examples show that, historically, God’s people have taken a firm stand for what is right, regardless of the consequences. They did not give in to men simply to curry favor with them; neither should we.
5 Our courageous stand is not to be confused with mere stubbornness; nor are we like some who rebel just to make a political point. Rather, we are determined to accept Jehovah’s authority over that of any human. When man’s law conflicts with God’s law, the decision as to what we will do is not difficult. Like the apostles in the first century, we obey God as ruler rather than men.
6 What has helped us to accept God’s authority? We adopt the position stated at Proverbs 3:5, 6: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.” We believe that anything God requires of us will ultimately work to our good. (Read Deuteronomy 10:12, 13.) Indeed, Jehovah described himself to the Israelites as “the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk.” Then he added: “O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isa. 48:17, 18) We trust those words. We are convinced that it is always in our best interests to obey God’s commands.
7 We accept Jehovah’s authority and obey him even if we do not fully understand the reason for some requirement set out in his Word. This is not credulity; it is trust. It reflects heartfelt confidence that Jehovah knows what is good for us. Our obedience is also an expression of our love, for the apostle John wrote: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.” (1 John 5:3) But there is another aspect of our obedience that we should not overlook.
Training Our Perceptive Powers
8 The Bible tells us that we should have our “perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Heb. 5:14) Hence, our goal is not to obey God’s laws in a mechanical fashion; rather, we want to be able to “distinguish both right and wrong” based on Jehovah’s standards. We want to see the wisdom of Jehovah’s ways, so that we can say as did the psalmist: “Your law is within my inward parts.”—Ps. 40:8.
9 To appreciate God’s laws as the psalmist did, we need to meditate on what we read in the Bible. For example, when we learn about a certain requirement of Jehovah, we might ask: ‘Why is this command or principle wise? Why is it in my best interests to obey? What bad consequences have befallen those who have ignored God’s counsel in this matter?’ When our conscience is thus attuned to Jehovah’s ways, we are more likely to make decisions that are in harmony with his will. We are able to “go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is” and then follow through by a course of obedience. (Eph. 5:17) This is not always easy.
Satan Seeks to Undermine God’s Authority
10 Satan has long sought to undermine God’s authority. His independent spirit is manifest in many ways. Take, for example, the lack of regard for the divine institution of marriage. Some opt to live together, while others scheme to be freed from their spouse. Those of either group might agree with a well-known actress who asserted: “Monogamy is impossible for both sexes.” She added: “I don’t know anyone who’s faithful or wants to be.” Reflecting on his own failed relationships, a popular actor similarly stated: “I’m not sure if it really is in our nature to be with someone for the rest of our lives.” We would do well to ask ourselves, ‘Do I accept Jehovah’s authority in the matter of marriage, or has the world’s lax attitude affected my thinking?’
11 Are you a youth in Jehovah’s organization? If so, you may be a special target of Satan’s attempts to undermine Jehovah’s authority. “The desires incidental to youth” coupled with pressure from your peers may incline you to conclude that God’s laws are burdensome. (2 Tim. 2:22) Do not let that happen. Strive to see the wisdom of God’s standards. For example, the Bible tells you to “flee from fornication.” (1 Cor. 6:18) Here again, ask yourself these questions: ‘Why is that command wise? How will obedience in this matter benefit me?’ You may know some who ignored God’s counsel and then paid a heavy price for that error. Are they really happy now? Do they have a better life than the one they enjoyed in association with Jehovah’s organization? Have they really found some secret to happiness that the rest of God’s servants have missed?—Read Isaiah 65:14.
12 Consider the comments made some time ago by a Christian named Sharon: “Because of disregarding Jehovah’s law, I have contracted the deadly disease AIDS. I often look back at the many happy years I had in serving Jehovah.” She recognized that it was foolish to break Jehovah’s laws and that she should have treated them with the greatest respect. Jehovah’s laws are for our own protection. Sharon died just seven weeks after writing the above words. As her tragic experience shows, Satan has nothing good to offer those who become part of this wicked system. As “the father of the lie,” he makes many promises, but they fall flat, just as did the one he made to Eve. (John 8:44) Truly, it is always best to accept Jehovah’s authority.
Guard Against an Independent Spirit
13 In accepting Jehovah’s authority, we need to guard against an independent spirit. A haughty attitude can cause us to feel that we do not need guidance from anyone. For example, we might resist counsel given by those taking the lead among God’s people. God has established an arrangement by which a faithful and discreet slave class provides spiritual food at the proper time. (Matt. 24:45-47) We should humbly recognize that this is the way Jehovah is caring for his people today. Be like the faithful apostles. When some disciples were stumbled, Jesus asked the apostles: “You do not want to go also, do you?” Peter replied: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.”—John 6:66-68.
14 Accepting Jehovah’s authority involves responding to counsel based on his Word. For example, the faithful and discreet slave class has been admonishing us to “stay awake and keep our senses.” (1 Thess. 5:6) Such counsel is very appropriate during these last days in which many are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money.” (2 Tim. 3:1, 2) Could we be affected by such prevailing attitudes? Yes. Nonspiritual goals could lull us into spiritual sleep, or we might adopt a materialistic attitude. (Luke 12:16-21) Hence, how wise it is to accept the Bible’s counsel and avoid the self-serving lifestyle that is so prevalent in Satan’s world!—1 John 2:16.
15 Spiritual food from the faithful and discreet slave class is disseminated to local congregations by appointed elders. The Bible admonishes us: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account; that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.” (Heb. 13:17) Does this mean that congregation elders are infallible? Of course not! God sees their imperfections more clearly than any human can. Still, he expects us to be submissive. Cooperating with the elders, even though they are imperfect, gives evidence that we accept Jehovah’s authority.
The Importance of Humility
16 We must always remember that Jesus is the true Head of the congregation. (Col. 1:18) That is one reason why we humbly submit to the direction of appointed elders, giving them “more than extraordinary consideration.” (1 Thess. 5:12, 13) Of course, congregation elders can show that they too are submissive by being careful to convey to the congregation God’s message, not their own opinions. They “do not go beyond the things that are written” in order to promote some personal idea.—1 Cor. 4:6.
17 All in the congregation need to be on guard against searching out their own glory. (Prov. 25:27) Evidently, that was a pitfall for one particular disciple whom the apostle John encountered. He wrote: “Diotrephes, who likes to have the first place among them, does not receive anything from us with respect. That is why, if I come, I will call to remembrance his works which he goes on doing, chattering about us with wicked words.” (3 John 9, 10) There is a lesson in that even for us today. We have good reason to uproot any trace of ambition we might see in ourselves. The Bible tells us: “Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Those who accept God’s authority must resist the snare of presumptuousness, for doing otherwise will lead to dishonor.—Prov. 11:2; 16:18.
18 Yes, make it your aim to resist the world’s spirit of independence and to accept Jehovah’s authority. From time to time, meditate appreciatively on the great privilege you have to serve Jehovah. The fact that you are among God’s people is evidence that he has drawn you by means of his holy spirit. (John 6:44) Never take your standing with God for granted. Strive in all aspects of life to show that you reject an independent spirit and that you accept Jehovah’s authority.
Do You Recall?
• What does accepting Jehovah’s authority involve?
• How is training our perceptive powers related to accepting Jehovah’s authority?
• In what areas does Satan try to undermine God’s authority?
• Why is humility important in accepting Jehovah’s authority?
1, 2. (a) Why is the idea of submission to authority distasteful to many today? (b) Are those who claim to be nonconformists truly independent? Explain.
3. How did first-century Christians show that they did not blindly submit to human authority?
4. What examples from the Hebrew Scriptures show that many of God’s people followed an unpopular course?
5. How is our view of authority different from that of the world?
6. Why is it always best to obey Jehovah’s commands?
7. What should we do if we do not fully understand a command set forth in God’s Word?
8. How is having our “perceptive powers trained” related to accepting Jehovah’s authority?
9. How can we attune our conscience to Jehovah’s standards, and why is it important that we do so?
10. What is one area in which Satan has sought to undermine God’s authority?
11, 12. (a) Why may it be hard for youths to accept Jehovah’s authority? (b) Relate an experience showing the folly of disregarding Jehovah’s laws and principles.
13. What is one area in which we need to guard against an independent spirit?
14, 15. Why should we humbly submit to Bible counsel?
16. How can we show respect for Jesus as Head of the Christian congregation?
17. Why is an ambitious spirit dangerous?
18. What will help us to accept Jehovah’s authority?
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“We must obey God as ruler rather than men”
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It is always wise to follow God’s standards